by: David Armano

A while back, I had written about how technology is enabling us to come full circle. Recent personal events which I, and many of you collectively experienced first hand are making me a bit more confident of the movement. However, we've got some big challenges, and as I think about these challenges—I'd like you to think along with me (this is why I make it so easy to comment here). Here's a few challenges I see.

Can brands feel more human?
Brands are something we can have some type of feeling toward. Positive, negative or neutral. And while brands and people have a lot of similar traits, they are not the same thing. Steve Jobs isn't Apple, even though it sometimes feels that way. And that's an exception. Henry Ford started his company, but he is not the brand. And yet, brands are fueled by humans, our efforts. They can't exist without them. So the questions is, can brands feel more human? Should they? Or should we just let them be the brands of old. The way it's always been?

Can People Scale?
We are reaching a point where successful examples of people powered service, and experiences are still not all that common. A few examples stand out, Comcast, Dell, Zappos, Southwest, Cha Cha, Starbucks etc. But they're not perfect and each have their own challenges. The fact is that it's more business friendly to outsource your call center, automate services and systematize process. Human powered efforts can be immensely powerful and effective, but having personal micro-interactions from people to people is not easy to pull off. Last night Frank from Comcast was helping me with an issue. I simply love the personal touch and it does make me feel better about Comcast, but the million dollar question is—can it scale? Or does people powered service need to scale? Is it a niche offering? You tell me.

Can Companies Provide Value?
While there is a lot of talk about the role of marketing and how it's evolving toward something which can serve a more meaningful purpose, the fact is that we still get our e-mails flooded, our mailboxes crammed, our Websites cluttered, our networks spammed, and our everyday activities infiltrated by marketing initiatives. It's like walking around in Time Square. It's impossible to escape. I'm not a rocket scientist but something tells me that some of these tactics must be working because there seems to be more of it, not less. So, the question is—what's the real incentive for companies to provide less noise and more value? How do we get them to see "the light"?

Can Viral Be Meaningful?
We are living in a very interesting time right now. If many of us are not inclined to be introspective, current economic and world events are forcing many of us to do so. Some of us are re-thinking materialism, and examining our own lifestyles. What's gone viral in the past may not be the viral of the future. Marketing specifically thrives on "gimmicks"—cleverly produced attention grabbers that are designed to get you to stop what you are doing, engage and spread a branded object. What I'm wondering is if the viral phenomenon will move from less frivolous to more meaningful initiatives. Though I see potential, I'm not sure about this. Marketing thrives on quick hits, which lead to some type of spike in sales or purchases. Where does humanity fit into any of that?

Anyway, that's what's on my mind. I'd really like to hear from you on any of these things.

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